At fifteen I started working, buying my own food and paying my own health insurance. My mother had always controlled my opportunity to eat, so I was thrilled to finally eat on a regular basis as I needed to. I immediately gravitated toward the natural food store and began eating organic this and uncured that. My dad worked as a butcher when I was young and had forbidden me to eat prepacked food or hot dogs, what he referred to as “garbage.” My maternal grandfather was an organic gardener back before it was cool and adamantly refused to use Miracle Grow or “-cidal” sprays, like all the neighbors, because he said, “If it isn’t safe for a worm to eat, it isn’t safe for me to eat.” My natural food choices came, well, naturally.
I loved perusing the thrift shops. One of my favorite clothing items was an old, gray wool blazer that had belonged to one of my clients. He’d worn it back in the 40’s and looked quite dapper in it. I wore it over a hot pink top with big shoulder pads, a black mini skirt with black pumps, and hair sprayed a mile high. I thought I continued that jacket’s legacy and looked rather sexy in it.
As a young mother and a new Christian I read Mother Earth News nearly as often as I read my Bible, in between breast feeding, washing cloth diapers, and making my own organic baby food in the food processor. It was during that period of my life that I discovered my love for refinishing old, throw away furniture and turning it into something beautiful again.
Somewhere back then there was a country song that went, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.” Well, I was re-using, re-cycling, and re-purposing before it was cool, before some of those terms were even coined. And, I embraced a world view that Mother Earth News referred to as “Christian Environmentalism.” I believed, and still do, that we have a responsibility before God to tend his creation, what some refer to as the dominion mandate.
I’d been raised on a farm and knew how to “make do.” My grandmother washed her bread sacks to re-use as storage baggies, and she saved her left overs in margarine containers. Our old holey socks became dust cloths. And, holey white T-shirts became gun cleaning rags. Coffee cans held everything from used motor oil to nails to bagged beans or were used to scoop feed out of the large barrels and into the trough. Everything could be re-used or re-purposed.
BUT, there comes a time in everyone’s life when it is time to throw certain things away. Their usefulness is gone. They have become garbage, and it is ridiculous to hang on to them or try to use them in any purposeful way. And, some things aren’t meant to be re-purposed for what you are trying to use them for.
My (please, oh God, let it be SOON to be ex) husband did not have a moralistic idea of use, nor was he raised on a farm by those who had lived through the depression. He was a subdivision dweller, raised on corn flakes and boxed macaroni and cheese, buying clothes, food, and hardware from a local store.
For some strange reason though, once he married me, he took on a “we must save everything that everyone else throws away” mentality. Still, not for a moralistic ideal though. And, it was not out of a desire to fit in with my family or jump on board with me. It was utter foolishness, and I begged him to just buy the right materials!
At the bottom of this post are some photos of my afternoon project. I spent a re-diculous amount of time today tearing out an old garden that he put in “for me.” The raised beds were so big that it was like row gardening on a platform. They weren’t really functional, certainly not in the convenient, raised bed sort of way. And, they were completely unsafe, as he had used treated railroad ties, which leached thick, black goo into the dirt and into our food.
My chickens frequently free ranged in my strawberries, so my dad gave me some fencing. My, a-hem, husband put it up for me, with help from the children and me (but we were just there to be yanked on and yelled at–he was running the show because he “knew what he was doing!”), but he put the fencing in upside down. The chickens just walked right through the bottom of it. The fence posts didn’t seem secure, so he used old pieces of wire and wired kindling and parts from someone’s old pool to use as corner “braces.” They were heavily wired in with the edges poking out to snag the kids, the animals, and me, but they were basically just sitting on the ground and resting against the posts, serving no real purpose.
The wood box was a potato box that he made. However, before I could fill it with dirt and plant potatoes in it he turned it into a “hive.” He fell an old tree that had a hive in it, and he had the brilliant idea to put a hunk of the tree and hive inside the potato box, board it up, and set a board over the top, so the bees wouldn’t know their home had been chopped down for firewood. He was going to save the bees! Shhhhh……..nobody tell them! [Eye roll. The adult bees found another home, and the rest never hatched out.]
Before those photos are my idea of re-use and re-purpose. I bought used bakery buckets from a local grocery store for $1 a piece and use them to store my bulk foods. They stack nicely and are air and varmint tight. The other photo is my nightstand. I found it at a yard sale. Can you guess what it is? It’s an antique hospital bedside tray! My book holder on top of it? Again, a yard sale find for a buck. It’s really a plate holder. I bought it for my daughter’s bridal shower. I put plates of goodies on it for the shower and now re-use it to hold my nighttime reads. The lovely picture frame above it? A window from my beloved grandparents’ old home. I stripped it and sanded it. Then, I crackle painted it with an old milk white color. I matted three family photos from between the mid 1800’s up to 1925 and placed them alternately with three pieces of mirror. My artsy fartsy idea was that as I look into the mirrors and the faces of my family history I see myself reflected back. Corny, I know.